Created in 1985 by Werewere Liking, the Ki-Yi Company is a Collective made up of African artists from many countries residing in the Ivory Coast and attempting to use "Africa" as the inspiration for a multi-faceted professional activity. The organization, composed of some 70 members, includes: the Ki-Yi Village (the space where the group works and lives), Ki-Yi Arts Productions (painting and sculpture), the Ki-Yi Museum (ancient and contemporary works), Ki-Yi lines (clothing) and the Ki-Yi M'Bock Theatre, which presents in repertory dramatic, choreographic, lyric, and musical pieces -- both at the Village and on tour: to date in Africa, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and Japan.
The Embodiment of a Panatrican Dream
The KI-Yi M'Bock, founded in Abidjan by the Cameroonian artist Werewere Liking (writer, director, singer), preserves in this album its first - the aural memory of its 1992 lyric opera about Africa: "A Tuareg Got Married to a Pygmy". The album embodies quite magically what might be called a signally "crucial meeting." Benefitting from the participation of some seventy members of different nationalities and ethnic groups, the Ki-Yi Company has become the melting pot for a cultural Symbiosis which embraces and represents Africa itself, a symbiosis which through performance realizes Nkrumah's Panafrican dream, his notion that From the Sahara to the Kalahari there will be but one country." (Osageyfo ) In recounting the voyage of a Tuareg who, after having left the desert, sets off to find water - a symbol for survival - and finally marries a forest-dwelling Pygmy, the Tuareg epic transports Us not only through diverse regions of Africa but also across lime zones : different tempos and different epochs - from a royal court (Ouidah) to today's political dramas (Sankara). The album illustrates remarkably the variations which comprise Africa: a dance of tongues - languages married to music - (Bete from the Ivory Coast in Libodou and Zoukou, Yoruba in Oshogbo, Lingala in Spectacular Evolution) and a round ol rhythms whose orchestration, seemingly so simple, results on the one hand from the talent of master arranger (and demystifier-) Ray Lema and on the other from the in-depth training of the company by Lema's longtime associate Thom's Sika. Refusing the cliché of African music as percussive explosion, Ray Lema's arrangements foreground the importance of the vocal patrimony the Ki-Vi explores. To weave the songs' rhythmic fabric, comprised in part of water drums, subtle congas, percussion from Benin (the lamanoual and suggestions of cymbals, Larva has delved into the resources of counterpoint and melodic line •• whether these be found in the polyphony characteristic of Central Africa or the incantations of West African griots. The Kr-Yin musical fresco invites us to experience the successful blending of tradition and modernity. We travel from the luxuriance of Pygmy song and the warm breath of the savanna to a reggae groove (Oshogbo) or a solemn oasis bathed by guitars and synthesizers (Mystic Assembly). The recording benefits from an exceptionally rich compositional palette : no other African album has included such Vast Cultural references. Together, Ray Lema and Werewere Liking have created the first real Panafrican album. The meeting of these two pioneers inaugurates a new era in musical composition in Africa.
Fara C. Translated by Judith G. Miller
3. Mbimba Gwet
6. Shaka Zulu
10. Evolution Spectaculaire
11. Assemblee Mystique
3. Mbimba Gwet
6. Shaka Zulu
10. Evolution Spectaculaire
11. Assemblee Mystique
OSHOGBO "Black faith has been reincamated In the body of a White woman with sea eyes. Adouni Olorisha named Wenger. Tho magician with heavenly hands, Offered herself to the spirits of Oshogbo As witness to the rnultiple dimensions of Black laith. With Adebissi, Akandji. Abiyu. Bouraimo. Sake, Kassali and Lawani, she embraced iron and concrete From the red earth's breast and made sacred forests blossom With groat and pure timeless Beings dedicaled to Oshogbo..."
LIBODOU Before leaving on their mission, the guides worried about those who stayed behind... In former times, in courageous villages, there were more of those known as lime's workers. "You who are staying, are you ready ? Are you able to fight an epidemic ? Do you accept responsibility ? Can you keep fails and preserve courage? Can you perpetuate The work of the Masters of time? Now's the lime to prove it. Now's the time for rebirth. Know that there is no place in our village for the lazy...
MBIMBA GWET The storytellers decide to tell Firoun the epic about wars and their fatal consequences: 'Rumors of wars swell like a river. Madness cuts scars inlo faces Like the zigzags of lightning storms... Do you see the small village perched on the rocks? We have guarded all our values there. Don't you dare pollute Pama."
SANKARA Firoun Ag Atinsear pays homage to Thomas Sankara whose memory has been nearly eradicated... 'And the story ol Burkino Faso has been leveled to its lowest common denominator the guns of people hanging onto their millet and games.. Always birthing tyrants in order to kowtow to them producing heroes ripe to be buried'
ZOUKOU The news has the used of a rail of gun smoke traversing cities and villages Firoun Ag Alinsaar. Pharaoh of all Tuaregs, has come back to make new life possible! He is traveling across the continent tu try and unite his people after having failed once before... 'We shall call him Yale Digba, Great Sufferer. He is Zoukou Goublignon. the eternal wanderer.. He is the emptiness which cars forth fullness. His presence lets us dream ol unthinkable forests supplanting treacherous sand..."
SHAKA ZULU -You said,'Let war become art. Art in which fleeing and affirming oneself Amazulu Becomes a question of life or death, An essential choice....' One isn't born Amazulu-Son of Heaven.
One becomes Arnazulu through total commitment. So the Christians called you bloodthirsty But could still baptize the one who ordered Hiroshima and Nagasaki And the Director of Surgery on the Iraqis. Being Amazulu means from now an In the reign of violence and scientific death Choosing to reinvent life..."
OUIDAH The women who are buried alive. Funeral biers for their royal husbands. Don't give birth to other people. And their children who are traded for canons Don't come back. The rusted canons don't thunder anymore. Women and children killed, sold no longer gossip And there is no one left to continua the line. You dare ask, 'what's this silence?' You. the Lord of Wars and Slaves...?"
TOMBOUCTOU Having started on his way accompanied by guides and storytellers designated by the Mystic Assembly, Firoun Ag Alinsaar, the Tuareg. enters Tanbuctu. But one ol the cities most celebrated in history for its openness and hospitality is no longer able to recognize its own children I "Timbuctu. Off en your doors to Firoun Ag Alnsaar And cast out the intolerance which rumbles within..."
OSAGEYFO For those people who wanted to share a great dream •• the PanafrIcan dream which invited them to think of themselves differently, perhaps even seeing themselves as great as the dream... "When Nkrumah the Osageyfo dreamed, He dreamed big, from the Sahara to the Kalahari. He sow only one country. Only one country on en entire continent. Ashantis the same as Zulus, Lances and shields united Where differences meant richness.'
EVOLUTION SPECTACULAIRE Firoun Ag Alinsaar arrives in the lorest and meets Ngolobanze, the pygmy woman, and her twin brother Tole, and other nomads, another wisdom, another way of doing things but soil all brothers and partners. 'Oh to convince all those between your tribe and mine. Those who claim lobe sophisticated, developed, But who can't stop imposing their 'civilization' With weapons and money. Kalachnikov, neutron bombs, Spectacular evolution. Bravo!
ASSEMBLEE MYSTIQUE The Tuareg must leave the desert, travel across his whole continent, track down the highest energies of Hina Ina, Mother Earth, and learn how to make them circulate throughout his body. Thus has spoken the Mystic Assembly.
Honeymoon starts here, and if looks like it passed quickly it must have been thegoodone.
Werewere Liking has earned the attention of much of the francophone world over the past seven or eight years for her novels and plays. A prolific and multifaceted artist, she also writes poetry, studies and practices traditional art forms (sculpture, Malian marionette performances), paints, produces and directs and acts in her plays, and has produced severalshort films. Growing up among the Bassa of Cameroon, Liking experienced her people's rituals of healing, initiation, and death, and it is this framework which serves as a theoretical base for her writings and personal philosophy. She belongs to a new generation of African writers who are concerned as much with the content of their works as with developing a new African esthetic that might further the social efficacy of their art. Unlike modern African theater in the decades after Independence (largely imitating a European esthetic), Liking's theater combines dance, music, song, speech, and traditional spatial arrangements and concentrates on eliciting an emotional response to engender an intellectual one. In many respects, hers is the "total theater" that Artaud envisioned.
Politically, economically, and socially, Africa's leaders have defaulted on their promises, declared goals, and responsibilities. They have also been instrumental in advancing dependency and promoting an unhealthy social imbalance between desire and self-indulgence and between the abuse of traditional beliefs and modern opportunism. Correspondingly, one of the most wide-reaching thematic springboards in the post-1970 francophone African literatures has been the conflict between traditionalism and modernism. This tendency emerges in the 1980s with what seems to be a new emphasis: the thematics of the assistés or (foreign) aid recipients.
Indeed, for some contemporary authors, the means of dealing with the negative forces "directing" African society lies not just in integrating traditionalism with modernism, but in combatting the facile excuses which keep Africa in a state of eternal alienation and dependence on borrowed principles. This is the point of departure for the following discussion of Werewere Liking's theater, a discussion which privileges her most recently published text, Un Touareg s'est marié à une Pygmée ( 1992 ) Launched in the late 1970s, the theater of Werewere Liking, while presenting the sociopolitical and spiritual trials of contemporary Africa, is one that attempts to go beyond presentation, protest, and criticism with the purpose of forging a new vision of the African world and the self as well as a collective dream that might enable the meeting of the possible with the seemingly impossible, the "marriage of stone with water" ( Touareg, 34). In this theater, it is a question not just of recovering a certain balance in life, but of the process through which freedom and a fullness of being can be accomplished in a contemporary sociopolitical environment dominated by fear, demagogy, and estrangement. This process is enabled first and foremost by the notion of rencontre: an encounter of history with myth, the past with the present, tradition with modernism, and the self with its conscience and with "the other." As Ngolobanza, the Pygmy bride, states: "Tout est une question de rencontre / Une question d'ouverture, de vision / Accepter de s'approcher, de se rapprocher / On ne connaît la différence que par l'expérience" (It's all a question of contact / A question of openness, of vision / Agreeing to draw closer, to come together / We recognize difference only through experience; Touareg, 35). In the final analysis, rencontre forms a philosophical imperative in the search for a healthy equilibrium between traditionalism and modernism.
It is the thematic and structural gateway that might open the doors to the wider perspective and in formed judgment that support the very raison d'être for Werewere Liking's theater.
Liking's theater is rooted in the premise that contemporary African drama should confront contemporary problems (and propose solutions) in Africa in a form that is based on African symbols, structures, philosophies, and performance techniques rather than on Western conventions. This premise is based on an esthetic need that is itself conditioned by a social need. For not only, as Hourantier says, does "imported theater obey a ritual whose code the African does not know and to which he does not react emotionally" ( Du Rituel au théâtre-rituel, 8) but many traditional beliefs, rituals, and the myths that lie at their inception no longer relate contemporary Africa to its former dynamic.2 Indeed, if these myths and rituals do still remain in collective memory, they have often been exploited nefariously or emptied of their meaning and efficacy.